Acts 2:1-21


1 When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs — in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.


The book called “The Acts of the Apostles” was written around 85 to 90 CE by the anonymous author of the Gospel According to Luke. The first 15 chapters of Acts are a didactic “history” of the early Jesus Follower Movement starting with an account of the Ascension of Jesus and ending at the so-called Council of Jerusalem where it was agreed that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised and keep all the Kosher dietary laws in order to become Jesus Followers.
Today’s reading is an account of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples on Pentecost. (Another account is given in John 20.22 when the resurrected Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the evening of Easter.)

Today’s reading follows the Ascension, Peter’s account of the death of Judas, and the selection of Matthias as Judas’ successor.

Pentecost was a well-established Jewish Feast ordained by Lev. 23 to celebrate the spring barley harvest 50 days after Passover. It was also known as the Feast of Weeks and later Jewish tradition held that the gift of the Law was given on this day on Mount Sinai. It was one of the three “Pilgrimage Feasts” in First Century/Second Temple Judaism (the others were Passover and Sukkot/Booths) that called for Jews to come to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. For this reason, Jews from many areas and proselytes (full converts to Judaism) gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost.

The “violent wind” (v.2) is likely a reference back to the “wind from God” that swept over the waters in the First Creation Story (Gen. 1:2) and also recognized that breath is the sign of life, as when YHWH breathed life into the earthling (adam) in the Second Creation Story (Gen. 2:7). Violent winds were a frequent image in theophanies in the Hebrew Bible.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible suggests that the tongues of fire (v.3) were not only a symbol of the ability of the apostles to speak many languages, but also a reminder that John the Baptist said he would be followed by one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16). The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that fire is a frequent way of symbolizing divine presence in the Hebrew Bible, such as in the Burning Bush in Exodus.

In describing the disciples’ speaking other languages (v.4), the author signified a reversal of the confusion caused by the multiplicity of languages “resulting” from the Tower of Babel story in Genesis Chapter 11. This speaking in other languages is not to be confused with the “gift of tongues” or glossolalia.

The JANT observes that the rabbis looked down on Galileans as “mediocre scholars and inarticulate” – the backstory to the “amazement and astonishment” (v.7) that the persons speaking were Galileans.

The listing of countries (vv. 8-11) is generally from east to west, suggesting universal participation in the Pentecost event.

Peter’s speech and his role in the selection of Matthias earlier in this chapter indicated that he had become the spokesperson for the disciples. The NOAB notes that “like other Hellenistic historians, Luke provides characters with speeches appropriate to their circumstances” to convey the author’s (in this case, Luke’s) concerns.

Joel was generally understood as speaking of the world to come. The author added “In the last days, God declares” in introducing a paraphrase of Joel 2:24-32a. The paraphrase changed the “great and terrible” Day of the Lord in Joel 2:31 to one that is “great and glorious” (v.20).

1 Cor. 12:3b-13


3b No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.


Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was the heart of Roman imperial culture in Greece. It was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the mid-50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues that were controversial in this Jesus Follower Community.

It is one of Paul’s most important letters because it is one of the earliest proclamations of Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners (“for our sins” 15:3) and his resurrection (15:4-5). The letter also contains the basic formula for celebrating the Lord’s Supper (11:23-26).

Today’s reading is the beginning of Paul’s long discussion on diversity in unity, and Paul used the metaphor of the body as unifying the members and their different gifts of the Spirit (vv. 12-13). Paul emphasized that each gift comes from the Spirit and is for the common good (v.7). Mindful that he was writing to a Hellenistic community, Paul listed wisdom and knowledge as the first gifts (v.8), though he emphasized that gifts are not allocated on the basis of merit or skill (v.11). The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes that Paul’s use of the body as a metaphor for the Jesus Follower Community inverted the popular usage of the culture in Corinth where bodies of different social ranks were valued hierarchically. The JANT also noted that the body had also been used as a metaphor for the people of Israel in Isaiah 1:5-6.

Paul’s discussion in these verses was a basis for his exhortation in the verses that follow (vv. 14-20) that even an individualistic attitude by any member of the body would not make it any less a part of the whole body.

Numbers 11:24-30


24 Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people and placed them all around the tent. 25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!” 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.


Numbers is the fourth book of the Torah (Hebrew meaning “teaching” or “Law”), also known by Christians as the Pentateuch (Greek meaning “Five Books”). Numbers (like the last half of Exodus, and all of Leviticus and Deuteronomy) was set in the time the Israelites were in the Wilderness before entering the Promised Land. If the time in the Wilderness is historical (no archeological evidence has ever been found to support it), this would have been around 1250 BCE.

Most of the book of Numbers was written by the “Priestly Source” during the Babylonian Exile (587 to 539 BCE) and in the 100 years after the Exile.

In the verses before today’s reading, the Israelites complained “in the hearing of YHWH” (v.1) about their lack of meat and the lack of variety in their food (all they had was manna). YHWH (translated as “LORD” in the NRSV) became angry and burned some outlying parts of their camp. Moses was also displeased with the Israelites, told YHWH that the Israelites were “too heavy” a burden for him (v.14), and asked YHWH to put him to death if “this is the way you are going to treat me” (v.15). The Jewish Study Bible opines that one of the purposes of this story was to “affirm Moses’ human traits and limitations.”

The JSB says the other purpose of the story was to “elicit divine solutions for the problems,” and YHWH responded by telling Moses to gather 70 elders and bring them to the tent of meeting (v.16).

Today’s reading described the imparting the spirit of “prophesy” (the ability to speak for God) on the 70 elders (v.25). This sharing of the spirit caused concern, however, among some of Moses’ followers, and Moses reassured them that the spirit of YHWH may be shared. According to The NOAB, the story reflected the Hebrew Bible’s ambivalence about prophesy generally and the inherent tension between prophets and priests. The JSB says the story may “reflect an ancient debate concerning whether there is only one legitimate prophet at a time as assumed by Deut.18:15-18, or if there may be many prophets in a single era.”

In the verses following today’s reading, YHWH provided a vast quantity of quails for the Israelites to eat – the birds fell from the sky and dead birds were 3 feet deep. The people collected 65 bushes each. Because the people had expressed a desire to return to Egypt (a rejection of God), YHWH got angry with them and struck them with a great plague (v.33) from eating too much meat too quickly.

John 20:19-23


19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”


The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.

The chronology of events is also different in the Fourth Gospel. For example, the Temple Event (“Cleansing of the Temple”) occurred early in Jesus’ Ministry in the Fourth Gospel, rather than late as in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, but in the Fourth Gospel, it occurred the day before the first day of Passover so that Jesus (who was described as “the Lamb of God” in the Fourth Gospel) died at the same time lambs were sacrificed at the Temple for the Passover Seder to be held the night he died.

Most scholars agree that an anonymous author wrote the Gospel around 95 CE, at a time when the “parting of the ways” between the Jesus Follower Movement and Rabbinic Judaism was accelerating.

Today’s reading is another account that is not found in the Synoptic Gospels. It began in a room that is locked “for fear of the Jews” (v.19), which means fear of the Temple Authorities. The evening was on the first day of the week (v.19), the same day that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb when it was dark.

Reflecting ambivalence about the “physicality” of the Resurrected Christ, Jesus was said to walk through walls and locked doors and stood among the disciples (v.19), but his wounds (only John’s Gospel speaks of a wound in Jesus’ side – 19:34) remained (v.20). The disciples did not recognize him, however, until he showed them his wounds (v.20). Even in a resurrected state, Jesus (and we) will continue to have wounds.

The Commissioning (sending) of the disciples (v.21) is analogous to the Great Commission in Matt. 28:19. The imparting of the Holy Spirit (vv.22-23) is sometimes called “Little Pentecost” – as compared to the longer Pentecost account in Acts 2:1-4. It was a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Advocate/Paraclete in John 14:16 and 26.

Breathing upon the disciples is seen by The Jewish Annotated New Testament as giving them new life. It also reminiscent of YHWH’s imparting the breath of life to the human (adam) made of the soil (adamah) in Genesis 2:7. The JANT suggests that the power to forgive sins or retain them (v.23) was “the authority to decide who can become or remain a member of the community.”